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Fire In Your Garden?

Outdoor Fireplaces for Seattle and the PNW
By Leanne Goulding
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What is it about sitting around a crackling fire that is so enticing, so spellbinding, that strikes some primitive chord? It makes one want to tell stories long or scary, roast s'mores, launch into an old college fight song, or grab the closest stick and poke burning embers.

A campfire in the backyard, be it large or small, is an excuse to go outside and a reason to stay there. We in the NW, with our cool evenings - even in the summer, are perfectly placed to savor the warmth that fire extends to our experience of the garden. Or what about those rare, clear, snowy days in the dead of winter - what a wonderful evening - bundled warm, mug of hot chocolate in hand, sitting in the snow by a fire...and in our own backyard.

A place for fire can be as simple as a chiminea or a sojoe. These are self-contained and purchased locally or on-line. They also add an architectural note to the landscape creating an inviting vignette, even when not in use. And they can easily be relocated if needed. A critical consideration is that the basin be large enough to hold several pieces of wood safely and have the air circulation necessary for a hot and clean burning fire. Don't be tempted to scrimp on inexpensive models. One caveat, is that all wood fires need to be sited at least 10' away from flammable materials, including overhead trees.

Or the fire ring can be built in, perhaps with seating of rock or wood. In this setting with a brick patio, we fashioned a wood cover so the dining table could sit atop, lending multiple uses to a limited space.

If you are fortunate enough to have both fire and water, well...need one say more.

The Whitetail fire ring is an example of a hybrid of the two. It is a free-standing fire ring designed to be set on the ground, is mobile and yet provides safety and beauty.

An outdoor fireplace brings the fire to you, much like sitting in your living room, except of course there is the breeze of wind and perhaps stars visible above. This Spanish style patio has a built-in BBQ, fire place and "Egg" smoker.

There are several modes of facilitating fire in the landscape - wood, wood with a gas starter, or an all natural gas or propane fire ring. This contemporary bluestone patio has a built in bench & fire ring. The natural wood option is the most elementary and least expensive, wood with a gas starter is perhaps the easiest if a real wood fire is desired, but for simplicity, fire at the flip of a switch, with no mess, as in this Seattle courtyard, a gas log fire ring is the answer.

This covered space is a year-round room with a gas fire place, and among other uses, is the favored gathering hall for boy's poker night. Its popularity may have something to do with its use as an unrestricted zone for cigars.
At the other end of the spectrum is this simple, easy to move and use Copper Canyon fire pit. Made of hammered copper, it has an optional matching cover which not only keeps the fire glass clean, but seconds as a table top. And it’s fueled by a standard 5 gallon propane tank hidden inside. How clever is that?

According to a friend with years of campfires by her lakeside, "No one can resist a fire. It is a draw for all generations and somehow the fire is just the bridge to spend the evening together."

It's true. The dancing flames and their heat, the open sky and its crisp air, the wide eyes and ears of our children, as family and friends tell colorful stories, the camaraderie of silly songs and sillier jokes - there indeed is something magical about Fire In Your Garden.

Note: With the exception of the fire ring/chimineas referenced with source links, all these fireplaces/rings were designed by Terra Design.

Author: Leanne Goulding


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